Where's the best nature in upstate New York and Ontario?
July 18, 2012 10:35 AM   Subscribe

Where should we go for a nature-filled long weekend within 4 hours of Toronto, Canada?

My wife and I are feeling city-bound, and looking for some (quick) nature for the first weekend in August. We'd be happy camping or at a hotel/lodge/B&B type thing, as long as its close to or in something resembling wilderness.
Things to consider:
- Within 4-ish hours drive from Toronto. Locations in upstate New York and southern Ontario seem the most likely. (happy to cross the border into the US)
- Ideally, we'd like some combination of scenery, wildlife, hiking or walks through the woods, and maybe some water. Being somewhere a bit separated from crowds would be nice too, though may not be possible.
- As a reference, the area around Parry Sound in Ontario, and Killbear Provincial Park, were on our short-list, but the campgrounds are all booked and the lodges are all fishing type places, which are not ideal.

Any ideas? Thanks a lot, in advance.
posted by Ziggurat to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total)
Best answer: Ithaca is gorges! Really though, it's probably right at about 4 hours, or maybe a bit more, but for a long weekend, you can't go wrong in that area.

As an alternative, maybe hike The Bruce Trail?
posted by Blake at 10:39 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Why not go north to Algonquin Park?? While some parts of the park can be crowded, there are vast stretches where you don't see a soul...
posted by LN at 10:50 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Algonquin looks to be about 6 hours, so it may be out, but it is beautiful and wonderful. I went kayaking in a couple of the lakes there as a teenager with my parents and have some very fond memories of the place, including hearing a loon and a pack of wolves going back and forth one night. If you go canoe/kayaking you may need to portage depending on the lake, but some of them are quite large.
posted by Hactar at 11:53 AM on July 18, 2012

Best answer: Presqu'ile provincial park is only about 2.5 hours away and is quite, quite lovely. It has several different habitats, and is a great place for hiking, swimming, and seeing lots of birds and critters. I wish I could go there now!
posted by Edna Million at 1:08 PM on July 18, 2012

Best answer: Algonquin is definitely well within 4 hours from Toronto, provided you avoid the mass exodus from Toronto north on the 400. I think you'll find the nicest hikes there are quite busy though. I definitely recommend it in the fall though. The Centennial Ridges trail is beautiful and has some amazing views of the park.

I recommend the Bruce Peninsula though. There are all sorts of beautiful hikes along there that won't be overly busy, particularly the further you get from Bruce Peninsula National Park.

Noteworthy hikes: Cyprus Lake to Tobermory is a great way to spend the day, but you have to figure out some means of transportation back to Cyprus Lake. I've always enjoyed the Big Tub Harbour resort in Tobermory for dinner, and they have live music if you go the right night. The Bruce Trail through Lion's Head Prov. Nature Reserve is also stunning and can be done as a loop. Lion's Head Inn is also a pretty decent place for a meal (though a bit pricey). I also really enjoyed the section between Rush Cove to Hope Bay - also possible to do as a loop, though part of it would be along roads. The sections of Bruce Trail within Owen Sound feel surprisingly wild despite being right in the city and there would be all sorts of different hikes you could take. It is well worth including Inglis Falls in any of them, though it would tend to be somewhat busier. I have hiked the Bruce Trail between Tobermory and Owen Sound (and a bit further) and can say that there are all sorts of worthwhile sections along it that are really unexpected and beautiful and are off the map.

As for accomodations/camping - there are all sorts of options up on the peninsula. Bruce Peninsula NP has a campground at Cyprus Lake, but it can be quite busy. Cape Croker has a campground on the reserve which tends to be less busy. There are a host of other places and B&Bs as well. Check out http://www.explorethebruce.com/ for a lot more info.
posted by jamincan at 1:44 PM on July 18, 2012

Best answer: The best way to tick off all the items on your list that I know of would be a "nomadic" canoe trip (paddle to a different campsite every night) in Algonquin. However this may not be the best for you as 3 nights is minimum for best experience and croud avoidance, it can be gruelling and don't even consider it unless one or both of you are very comfortable/experienced with canoeing.

You could paddle to a "home camp" and do day trips from there.

But I'm guessing hiking is more your thing. I have no experience with this but have heard both Algonquin and Bruce (especially) have awesome trails. Algonquin also has very nice "drive-in" campsites so you probably couldn't go wrong with either but frankly Jamincan's advice sounds best for you, especially given I wouldn't be surprised if all provincial parks within your range are booked solid for August long weekend..
posted by raider at 4:55 PM on July 18, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks a lot! I gave everyone best answers, as it was all great advice, and all locations are on the to-do list for the rest of this summer and next. I can't believe that Bruce Peninsula is only a few hours from Toronto. Looks perfect.
posted by Ziggurat at 12:51 PM on July 19, 2012

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